For most of us, pulling a bottle of “bourbon barbecue sauce” off the grocery store shelves is the easy game on July 4th. Who cares that the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup? It’s simple. Simple is good these days. Whereas putting together a basket full of ingredients and slowly simmering them in a bespoke barbecue sauce takes time and energy. “Are you telling me I’m going to spend a few hours cooking the sauce in which I’m going to spend a few more hours cooking my ribs?” “
But as the summer progresses and more blockages are issued, the weather is on our side. And God knows we’ve all had enough of leaven. That’s why we explain how to make your own bourbon barbecue sauce for the holiday weekend.
A few caveats before you start. It’s a almost recipe “from scratch”. The only real corner cut here wasn’t blanching, peeling and dicing my own tomatoes. I used these canned beauties More precisely. It’s just tomatoes and a pinch of salt that have been pasteurized. That’s it. Also, I’m using Four Roses Bourbon in this recipe because I have it on hand. You do not need to break the bank on bourbon for this recipe. (Although I don’t exactly recommend that you use paint thinner either.)
If you don’t have much time, you can speed up this recipe considerably by using Tomato puree then replacing the fresh onion, garlic and dried peppers with onion and garlic powders and paprika. Moreover, it is essentially a double recipe. I plan to use this barbecue sauce all summer long – I set its shelf life to four to six weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
Alright, let’s dive in and make some bourbon barbecue sauce.
Part I: Ingredients
- Two 24 oz. bottles of peeled and chopped tomatoes
- Two small yellow onions
- Four garlic cloves
- Two dried morita peppers
- 4 oz. Tomato Paste
- A cup of Bourbon
- A cup of maple syrup
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- A table spoon. Ground allspice
- A table spoon. Dried Mustard
- A tea spoon. White pepper
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
Part II: Cook
First, peel the onion and garlic. I dice the onion fairly fine and leave the whole garlic to mash later. I also make a coarse chop on the two moritas (dried and smoked jalapenos).
I put a medium pot on the stove over medium-high heat with a good drizzle of olive oil (just enough to make an even layer at the bottom of the pot). Once hot, I add the onion with a good pinch of salt.
Once the onions are sweaty and translucent. I crush the garlic cloves and add the peppers. I stir as these become fragrant.
Then I add the tomato paste and mix until it is incorporated into the base.
Finally, I add the crushed tomatoes and a big pinch of salt.
I simmer and cover with the lid slightly ajar. I simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until it smells very fragrant.
Once everything has sort of melted into the base tomato sauce, I use a hand blender to create a puree. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can pour it into your blender. If so, remember that you need to either have a Vitamix or a Ninja, whose lid cannot open, or hold the lid in place, as the hot air creates immense pressure. You don’t want your cabinets to be sprayed with barbecue sauce.
Once I have a smooth mash, I start adding the ingredients that will make it a barbecue sauce versus a modified marinara.
Little interlude: You now have a good sauce for the base of an arrabiata or a sugo salsiccia. So if you want, you can divide the sauce in half and reserve half of it for pasta preparation later. In this case, naturally, halve the rest of the ingredients for the BBQ sauce.
Let’s go back to the bourbon barbecue sauce – add the bourbon, vinegar, maple syrup, molasses and spices. Mix well and return to low heat.
Replace the lid making sure it is ajar and simmer over low heat for a few hours or until it is reduced to half. You will need to keep an eye on it and stir the sauce every 15 to 20 minutes to keep it from burning to the bottom.
Also test the taste of the sauce after about an hour. Does he need more salt? More softness? More vinegar? Maple syrup is very light and will not have the same sweetness as brown sugar. On this batch, I end up adding a little more vinegar, molasses and salt to accommodate my palate. Adjust your sauce to match yours.
The last and somewhat crucial step is to let the sauce cool and then pass it through a sieve to get the smooth texture you want in a barbecue sauce. Don’t do this while the sauce is hot, you will burn your skin.
You will need to slowly work the sauce through the sieve into another saucepan. Kind of slowly press down on the sauce as you stir it until you have a dollop of thick paste left, which you can throw away.
Part III: Storage
The last step is to put the sauce in bottles. I use two 18 ounce plastic sauce bottles. I fill both with a small leftover bowl.
The sauce is deep and smooth. There is a slight spice at the base with a hint of smoke (double the chilies if you want it hotter or smokier). There’s a clear tang that’s slightly sweet with a hint of bourbon shining through. The cooked tomato umami is the real star of the show with the spices, heat, sweetness and bourbon as supporting actors.